Thursday, July 07, 2011

Brain Science Anyone?

I recently attended a client's all day strategy session. My firm had a small presentation, and were available for Q&A throughout the day. But most of the day we were in the audience, listening to presentations by the executives of the bank and other consultants.

Part of the program was a continuation of the leadership program for bank executives. The program was led by the consulting firm Dorrier Underwood of Charlotte, North Carolina (see link below). This particular presentation revolved around brain science. Now think of an audience full of no-nonsense bankers. I thought the consultants were in for a tough time.

But the presentation intrigued me. Part of it was based on research by David Rock, a doctor of neuroscience, author, and co founder of the NeuroLeadership Institute (see link below). Based on Rock's research on how a brain reacts, he identified the Five Domains of Social Experience as follows (with explanatory bullets provided in the Dorrier Underwood handout):

1.  Status
  • Status is about relative importance, pecking order, and seniority.
  • A reduction in status resulting from being left out of an activity lit up the same regions of the brain as physical pain. (Eisenberger 2003)
2.  Certainty
  • The brain is a pattern recognition machine that is constantly trying to predict the near future.
  • Without prediction, the brain must use dramatically more resources to process moment to moment experience.
  • The act of creating a sense of certainty is rewarding.
3.  Autonomy
  • The perception of exerting control over one's environment-a sensation of having choices.
  • Working in a team necessitates a reduction in autonomy.
  • Sound policy establishes boundaries within which individuals can exercise their creativity and autonomy.
4.  Relatedness
  • Relatedness involves deciding whether others are in our out of a social group.
  • Whether someone is a friend or foe.
  • When someone is perceived as a foe, different circuits are used in the brain.
5.  Fairness
  • Unfair exchanges generate a strong threat response similar to disgust.
  • A threat response from a sense of unfairness can be triggered easily.
  • A sense of unfairness can result from a lack of clear ground rules, expectations, or objectives.
Sum the five up and we have the convenient acronym "SCARF", developed by Dr. Rock.

The context of the SCARF portion of the presentation was to help bank executives become better leaders. To understand how their own and their employees' minds work.

But I began to think that SCARF is also powerful in a sales or relationship building context. For example, it is important that the seller has status in the mind of the buyer, and also conveys status to the buyer to create a positive selling experience.

Buyers want to have relative certainty about what they will receive. This is the basis for people selecting chain hotels or fast food restaurants. The buyer is relatively certain about what they will get.

Buyers do not like to have products or services shoved down their throat. They would like to maintain control, or autonomy, over their buying decisions.

People buy from those that they like, or relate to. And finally, buyers like to walk away feeling they have received a fair shake from sellers, and vice versa.

It would seem that in financial services sales and marketing, we need to create an environment where customers are ready to buy from us. The SCARF model provides a road map to creating that environment, in my opinion.

What do you think is the proper environment to maximize sales in financial services?

~ Jeff

Dorrier Underwood

David Rock

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